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Victorian Lady

darlingfreak in mementomori_x_x

Standing Post Mortem

I found these photos in an Etsy shops. They were too expensive for me (as much as i love them) but I still wanted to download and share. Besides, I'm sure the seller won't mind some publicity. ;)



Upon first glance they don't immediately register as post mortem. However, upon close inspection there is really no doubt that the people are dead. Anyway, I'd heard of people taking post mortems by placing the deceased person in a metal stand and taking the photo as if they were alive and standing up, but I've never seen them before.


Fascinating. Thanks for posting this. Can you post the link for where you found this on etsy? Thanks.
Opps sorry missed you. :)

http://www.etsy.com/people/EphemeraObscura?ref=ls_profile I believe both were from this seller.
So while it's true that there are cases of post mortems wherein the dead are placed in a standing position using a stand, it's important to note that many living people were photographed with the use of those same stands in the early days of photography as well. Because of the long exposure time that was required, subjects had to remain very very still or the photo would appear blurred. So they used "head stands" to keep a subject's head and hopefully their eyes from moving during exposure. If you seat the subjects, the head brace doesn't show; if you stand, it can be visible.

I don't think either of these people are dead. Their eyes aren't fixed. The poses seem difficult to achieve unless you had the foresight to pose them right after death, waited for rigor to sit in, then propped them up, and even then I'm not sure their poses would be quite so lifelike. The girls right hand is clasping the candle in a rather natural manner instead of the claw-like manner I'd expect from a body in rigor. The man's right hand looks like it may have moved slightly during exposure, as the fingers look slightly blurred to me. I don't think either of them are in rigor; their faces don't appear to have that grimacey look about them. And if you look at the size of the base of the stands behind them, they don't look large enough to functionally support the weight of an upright dead body. (They're also wooden, though I don't have any information regarding whether the stands actually used to keep post-mortem subjects upright were metal or wood.)

There are a lot of people who presume that "visible stand" = "dead person," but that's a misconception. Unfortunately, there were several eBay sellers over the last few years who perpetuated the idea. I don't think all of them did it purposely; I think some of them were just under the same misconception, found photos of people standing with the use of stands, and thought they'd found post-morts. But some of the sellers absolutely knew better. I still have a list somewhere of sellers I won't deal with because they were knowingly bilking people into buying "standing post-morts."
Actually, the visible stand is not the reasons I believe they are post mortem.

First of all, the girl's hand is not clasping the candle. It is laying on the table, knuckles resting on the table, hand limply curled upwards. That is not a natural way to rest your hand. Also, if you look closely you can see that the sleeve of her dress is fixed to the bodice, and her arm is resting inside of it. She is not holding the rosary. It is draped over her hand.

Further examination of the hands show that they are dark and discolored. This would imply blood pooling. Also look at the bruising under the eyes.

There is no weight on her feet. The feet are resting on the floor in front of the stand. She's be completely off balance if she were standing. Granted, I saw this image in a small thumbnail, and when you see it shrunk down the fact that her feet seem to be in front of her and not under her is more apparent.

Also, and I'm sorry I have a very large high-res scan of this image that I downloaded, so things like the sleeve attached to the dress and the blackened fingers I got a better look at. Damn photobucket. :)

Another thing that you can't see in this sized picture is that the eyes have been completely retouched. Those are not her eyes, the whites and pupils have been completely redone. Now, I've seen a lot of post mortems with retouched eyes to make the subject look more alive, but not living people.
Sorry, hit post too soon. :)

I completely understand your concerns and respect your opinion. And I fully admit I could very well be wrong. Luckily, I'm not selling these or anything, or buying them. I just thought they were fascinating and wanted to share.

About the one with the man (I only addressed the girl. Actually if you told me one was a post mortem and one wasn't and asked me to guess I'd say the girl was the post mortem, with the attatched sleeve black fingers and re-touched eyes.)

But, if you look at the man, you can't stand like that. If you stand with your weight on one foot and the other foot crossed at the ankle, you go into a counter poster as the weight on the weighted leg raises that hip up which turns the other hip down. This then changes the alignment of the shoulders and so on.

The contrapposto that standing that way would cause the body to have that is completely missing.

Also, closed books were commonly used in post mortems as symbols as the end of the story.

Now again, I could totally be wrong. I admit that. I'm just saying the stand isn't the only reason I think they are post mortem.

If it helps at all the seller says they believe they are post mortem and says why, but it doesn't say definitively that they are, and asks the buyer to judge for themselves.